A blog review? Or free marketing? And do we care?
When I’m not sewing like a maniac, I work in the business of book publishing. It’s one of many creative fields that faces huge changes in its relationship with customers. Yesterday, I attended a panel talk from lawyers who represent game, film and music industries, as well as Ye Olde Worlde of books.
The most fascinating part of the talk (for me at least – I’m sure other people were geeking out over other details) came from the lawyer who dealt with the gaming industry. He started using the word ‘community’ instead of ‘customer’ – an important shift in vocabulary, I felt.
This made me think a lot about the sewing online community and the businesses embedded therein. Especially when the debate turned to the benefits and dangers of free content, honest or biased online reviews from community members, free marketing and how the world of creative retail is changing. Gone are the days when a customer silently coughed up their money and tugged their forelock in gratitude at a product delivered. Long gone. Customers, communities – call them what you like – now have a strong sense of ownership over the brands they’ve helped create and continue to support.
I walked back to the office thinking of blog sewalongs, pattern reviews, online forums, pattern publishers in my Instagram feed, tantalising free downloads, sponsored goodie bags, giveaways, books published, new subscription services being launched… There was only obvious conclusion I could draw. Sewing strode at the forefront of change lawyers and publishing professionals had just been debating in a room overlooking the River Thames.
This thought gave me cause for huge cheer. Only a few years ago Joe Public would have patted us on the head for holding a needle and thread instead of a briefcase. More fool Joe Public. We’re industry leaders!
Ours is a vigorous, challenging, joyous community. We’re also customers with voices. But, which comes first for you? Are you a member of a community or a customer? Is this something you even consciously think about? And who draws the line in the sand?